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Another day, another goof: Umps allow rule-breaking Astros pitching change

Mike Oz
Big League Stew

A day after a group of umpires botched a home-run ruling, another group of umpires let the Houston Astros make an obviously illegal pitching change. The opposing Los Angeles Angels played the rest of the game under protest, which doesn't really matter now because the Angels won the game 6-5.

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What does matter, though: The umpires blatantly went against the rule book and after the game wouldn't comment on it.

Here's the play-by-play: Astros manager Bo Porter called lefty Wesley Wright out of the bullpen to replace Paul Clemens in the seventh inning. The Angels countered by pinch-hitting for their left-handed batter with a right-hander. Wright didn't throw a pitch before Porter came back out and called for a right-handed reliever.

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(USA Today)

What the umps should have said: Sorry, Bo, that's against rule 3.05(B). Can't pull a pitcher who hasn't pitched.

What they did say: Sure, go for it. Angels skipper Mike Scioscia was livid, of course, and filed the protest immediately.

Here's the text of the rule in question:

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If the pitcher is replaced, the substitute pitcher shall pitch to the batter then at bat, or any substitute batter, until such batter is put out or reaches first base, or until the offensive team is put out, unless the substitute pitcher sustains injury or illness which, in the umpire-in-chief's judgment, incapacitates him for further play as a pitcher.

After the game, Porter's explanation was, to crib from Dave Chappelle, "I didn't know I couldn't do that." Here's what Porter actually said, via MLB.com's Brian McTaggart:

“My understanding of the rule, and I was fortunate enough last year to sit in with [Nationals manager] Davey [Johnson] when they changed the rule of a pitcher having to face a batter. But at the same time, if you have to pinch-hit for that batter, you now have the right to bring in another pitcher. Technically, Wesley came in to pitch the batter that was scheduled to hit [Shuck] but he pinch-hit for the batter that was scheduled to hit. Which, from my understanding of the rule, you can bring in another pitcher to face the pinch-hitter.”

The crew chief of the umpiring team, Fieldin Culbreth, didn't have a better explanation either. In fact, he didn't have any explanation.

"The only thing I can tell you is that all matters concerning protests are handled through the league office, and that's all I can tell you," Culbreth said.

That's from Alden Gonzalez's story on MLB.com, which also notes Culbreth gave essentially the same answer on a follow-up question. Better get that statement ready, Joe Torre.

A "no comment" might fly, if not for an umpire debacle the night before. Now? Well, we'll let Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan bring the pain:

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On the bright side, at least the Angels won the game. Not just because that renders the protest moot, but because it would be really embarrassing for the Angels to get swept by the Astros.

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